China’s increasing military capabilities are proudly on display: according to Chinese state-run newspaper the Defense Times, Norinco CS-AR-1 55mm rocket launchers have been installed on the Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands. The defense systems are able to detect and engage enemy combat divers.
Frogmen are mainly used by Special Forces divisions since underwater divers and small-scale vehicles are notoriously difficult for to target. They have been used by Vietnam since 2014 to install particular fishing nets throughout the South China Sea.
In 2014, Vietnamese frogmen were reported to have been involved in placing obstacles around a Chinese oil rig to interfere with drilling. “40 percent of losses in naval warfare history took place at the anchor site because warships or other facilities are too large to evade enemy fire,” People’s Liberation Army Navy commander Zhang Lisong told the Global Times.
An expert on Chinese navy threats told the Global Times at the time that Vietnamese frogmen would constitute China’s toughest enemy in the future.
The reef where the cannons were mounted is claimed by the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam but controlled by China.
On Tuesday, a joint statement from China and Vietnam stated Beijing would “not take any actions to complicate the situation,” Sputnik reported, which is important for the safe passage of $5 trillion worth of trade transiting the South China Sea annually.